Time to get serious about natural gas pipeline
Mayor Sean Drinkwine was exactly right when he discussed the value of bringing a natural gas line into Estacada, saying it would spur additional opportunities for local industry. Drinkwine made the point during his State of the City address on April 19.
The ability to power existing businesses with low-cost natural gas would remove one of the deterrents to retaining and attracting new industry.
With the loss of the sawmill on Highway 224 more than 10 years ago, this town has been looking for a replacement for family-wage jobs that allowed people to live and work in the same town.
Estacada has been doing an amazing job of reinventing itself as a recreation destination by utilizing cycling, water sports and arts organizations as catalysts. Meanwhile, the Broadway Street revitalization has put this city back on the map as a welcoming destination for locals and visitors alike.
But the one ingredient still missing in the equation is a replacement for the family-wage, manufacturing jobs that disappeared when the mill closed. To fill in this blank, Estacada needs to get serious about bringing natural gas to the industrial campus.
It was 2016 when we last visited this discussion. At that time, the Legislature had established a work group (made up of politicians, utilities and local jurisdictions) that would explore ways to bring natural gas to Estacada and other areas of Oregon. Rep. Bill Kennemer, R-Oregon City, was appointed to that group.
To be honest, The Estacada News lost track of that process, and we never reported on the findings of that work group. But in our initial reporting, we learned it would cost $13 million to connect Estacada to a main line. The pipeline would be 13 miles long, likely starting at Highway 212 and Southeast Richey Road.
That initial cost almost certainly would need to be shouldered by government, because it's unlikely that a utility company would take on the cost burden based on speculation that manufacturers will take advantage and locate to Estacada.
That brings the conversation full circle. While everyone involved generally agrees that bringing natural gas to the Estacada industrial campus is a good idea, we are no further along today than we were in 2007 following the closure of the Park Lumber Mill.
The city of Estacada and the town's Chamber of Commerce should start the process by forming a partnership, agreeing to work together on this important priority. Tops on the list of duties, identify county, state and federal funding sources that could be tapped to make the pipeline a reality. The partnership would examine the issue and report back with findings on all barriers and opportunities. The group also could circle back for a report on findings of
the 2016 legislative work group.
The most important task of this local partnership would be a shared commitment to move this process forward, and to avoid the possibility that Estacada will let another 10 years pass before getting serious about natural gas.